Monday, February 20th, 2012

Nicki Minaj – Starships

It’s Presidents’ Day, but we’re not writing the thinkpiece connecting that and this…


Erick Bieritz : The ’90s production revival has entered its Jock Jams phase, and it’s no surprise that RedOne took it there. This is one of his better efforts: stuffed with way too many stupid ideas, but some of them do work. But compared to “Super Bass,” which was a smart compromise between what Minaj does well and what a pop song demands, this is a complete concession to pop. It wouldn’t take much to turn it into a Ke$ha song. Such criticisms are presumably drowned out by a bleacher-rattling loop of the “higher than a motherfucker” bit as scores of synchronized cheerleaders launch into the air.

Katherine St Asaph: Poor, poor, poor Lex. And poor everyone excited at the prospect of a successful mainstream female rapper who kept her personality, someone just one track away from groundbreaking — everyone who’s now watching her emulate an LMFAO hook singer. Judging by her Roman Reloaded promos, I’d call this a one-off, the chart candy that gets kids to eat the apple beneath, but between this and Guetta (always blame Guetta), who knows? It isn’t even smart capitulation, because Nicki built this breakout on “Monster,” not “Your Love.” I don’t know whether it’d be sadder for Nicki to secretly despise this or really want it. 

Asher Steinberg : Nicki’s attempts to rebrand herself as the female Sean Kingston/Taio Cruz or Britney with flows and a much more chipper personality are good for no one and nothing but Nicki’s bank account. 

Alfred Soto: It turns out that “sellout” still has agency! After teasing us with tried-and-true, Minaj is hijacked and ransomed to the sort of electrobeat chorus that Taio Cruz can pull off with more aplomb.

John Seroff: I defy you to tell me how this is even marginally better than “Brokenhearted“. If anything, it’s (amazingly) messier, more calculated, dumber, more vulgar, less melodic, more patronizing, more heavily branded, more creatively bereft. I know I’m something of a broken record on this point, but pop apologists willing to forgive Nicki’s unfinished skill set when she broke onto the scene have no one to blame but themselves for this nonsense.

Brad Shoup: It’s not beyond, it’s just different, and I wish Lil’ Kim got that. NY-style hardness, organized-crime obsession, fusion samples, only one fake accent: it’ll come back, but only in revival form. From verse one, Minaj presents a much more universal good-life scenario (beers, considerate tipping, a trip to the beach, er… letting the rent check slip your mind). RedOne’s production sounds like the last few Karmin/Taio/Katy singles, which sounds like the last couple years of pop. I know it’s standard practice to double the chorus melody with the synths, but personally, I find it’s an uncomfortable level of enmeshment here. The one time the chorus serves as bridge — with that plaintive melody riding on a stringbed — true beauty comes.

Edward Okulicz: The gulf between the mischievousness, intelligence and creativity of Nicki Minaj and some of her “big” “pop” songs (aside from “Super Bass”) is truly staggering. This sounds like everyone else and has no personality, for the most part. When Nicki deigns to put one of her kooky voices on, you smile but can’t help thinking “Starships” is a waste of everyone’s time — worse pop stars would commit better, and Minaj deserves better. She’s done enough bad pop crossovers to no longer give her the benefit of the doubt; as talented as she is, she’s got no damn taste. The “motherfucker” chipmunk bit is just embarrassing.

Michaela Drapes: I realize we live in a 24/7 global pop marketplace, and that it’s always summer somewhere, but this endless parade of winter-released warm weather jams is so utterly frustrating. I want to hear this coming out of car windows now, not four months from now! Well, ideally, I’d be in a Missoni bikini on a beach in Spain somewhere, dancing to this, since it sounds like every trance track ever smooshed into one hyperbolic glorious mess.

Iain Mew: Candy-covered confrontation featuring an irrepressible personality not quite contained by calculatedly populist production, hooks blown up to the point where they stop being catchy and start to become disruptive and abrasive and a bit weird. It was at the musical quote of “twinkle twinkle little star” that it suddenly hit me what “Starships” specifically reminds me of – it’s “Swagger Jagger”! How’s that for recursive?

15 Responses to “Nicki Minaj – Starships”

  1. If this had been buried amongst the other incompetent pop that cluttered Pink Friday I probably wouldn’t have noticed. But following “Super Bass” and “Stupid Hoe”, it’s a downright tragedy.

  2. I am kicking myself for not reviewing this. I sort of forgot that I live in central time and missed the deadline. It’s far and away one of the worst Nicki Minaj tracks and this is coming from someone who really liked Pink Friday. The rapping is trite and uninteresting. But honestly, I could really give a fuck. This isn’t a rap song, guys, it’s a pop song! It’s also my easily favorite RedOne song since “Bad Romance.” The beginning sounds like a really good Katy Perry song and by the end it sounds like going 8 Loko while listening to three Cher Lloyd tracks at once. Would’ve given it an [8].

  3. “This isn’t a rap song, guys, it’s a pop song!”
    Also, sorry if this sounds douchey…. Obviously you all know how to write about pop music. :) I was just surprised to see what, to me at least, felt like a viscerally satisfying pop banger get such mixed reviews on this site.

  4. I would have given it a [7] – it’s a terrible Nicki Minaj song, but for what it is, it really works. (In fact I would have bumped it up to an [8] because it reminds me of the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Star Trek TV series.)

  5. My fault, actually — deadline was really weird last night.

  6. I originally gave it a [0], FWIW; it just feels really, really, really uncomfortable for Nicki of all people — the most successful female rapper in ages, who’s far from perfect but certainly has a more than promising vision — to stop being a female rapper and start being a pop singer, something there’s no shortage of. Sure, Pink Friday had plenty of pop songs, but this one seems particularly assembly-line; it’s the sort of thing you’d give to a no-name, no-prospects singer, with maybe a little gussying up by Nicki but otherwise bland. I’m probably overly irritated considering this came right off the heels of her Grammy performance (which I loved; it was a mess, but it was a fascinating mess) and off two rappity-rap tracks.

  7. The deadline wasn’t standard, but you clearly sent an email about it and I still managed to forget that I moved to Chicago 8 months ago and that 6 EST is my 5 for me. I can see why this is a disappointment. I wish she’d passed and sent it to Flo Rida or Taio or someone else who’s actually suited to the whole bland-club-rap thing. She is definitely too good at what she does for this song.

  8. I think this is a terrible song in any context, not just Nicki’s. I don’t find the melody compelling at all, her voice (rapping and singing) is more grating than usual, and I hate how RedOne staples together pop trends that are already worn thin – Dr. Luke/Max Martin drum’n’guitars beats a la “Raise Your Glass” et al.; anthemic Taio Cruz breakdowns (complete with utterly banal lyrics); and ‘dirty’ electro womp territory already treaded by Afrojack and Guetta. I’ll give that the latter of the three is done well, but I can’t muster up any more praise for this failure.

  9. Rappity-rap is gonna be a thing, I just know it. So excited!

  10. The silliest thing is that in the UK Radio 1 are playing a version of this with all the ‘what a racket’ bits chopped out. It sounds like it was made in Windows Sound Recorder.

  11. Am I the only person not having problems with Nicki’s endless chameleoning? It’s all so endlessly fascinating to watch how she’s completely impossible to pin down. MOAR PLZ.

  12. You are not alone, once sang the sage.

  13. I could’ve sworn I said something else about this song in addition to that first sentence. I think it had something to do with the trite hook. Something about how the starships are akin to Perry’s fireworks.

    And sorry, but I think it’s kind of ridiculous to praise someone for not being able to pin them down when the reason we can’t pin them down is that they can’t decide if they want to be a good rapper or a Taio Cruz without any of the skills it takes to adequately mimic his modest accomplishments. This isn’t like, you know, the 37th Chamber of the Mind of Nicki Minaj, it’s just a rapper doing a bad pop song because the state of the industry is such that the 4 rappers who are on the radio at any given moment are required to sing on occasion, very possibly under the terms of their contracts.

  14. I am ashamed to admit that I just said “____ like a motherfuckkeeeeerrr!” to myself.

  15. SHOTS HAVE BEEN FIRED, obviously.

    The thing is, I don’t even dislike this because it’s a RedOne song! If that’s your beef, “Roman Reloaded” has lots of songs which are far more obvious RedOne Songs (“Pound the Alarm,” whichever one ripped off Gaga’s “Highway Unicorn” wholesale, probably a few others.)